KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 26 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today supported calls for Islamic studies in schools to be reviewed and tailored more to stress compassion and “good values”.

Anwar also backed suggestions by scholars that Islamic civilisation be taught at every level.

The prime minister said the subject is crucial to encourage dialogue and tolerance, citing long-held Islamic traditions for intellectualism and appreciation of world knowledge beyond Islam.

Anwar said this at the launch of the book Knowledge, Tradition and Civilisation: Essays in honour of Professor Osman Bakar at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation-International Islamic University Malaysia (Istac-IIUM) here.


“There are suggestions from scholars such as Professor Osman who stated that the Islamic religious studies being taught in schools must be re-looked at and reviewed to ensure that what is taught gives a better understanding of the issues of values, character and universal humanity values. These have to be emphasised,” he said.

“This is so because often, Islam is taught by quoting authorities and fatwas are issued (by authorities) based on their own understanding. Sometimes, when we question (the fatwas), they say that it is not right,” he added.

“If the main teachers take a wrong action, it must be questioned.”


Islamic courses in the universities have not been reviewed since they were first introduced, Osman said in his speech.

The scholar, widely regarded as an essential public intellectual, and a pioneer in Islamic civilisational studies, told Anwar that the entire Islamic education syllabus must be reviewed and reformed.

The prime minister agreed. He suggested the Malaysian education system’s over-emphasis on scores is flawed and that it must also stress on character and values.

“We must also be wary of forced goals in top universities in Malaysia as they must have both soul and excellence. It is not enough to have soul but no excellence or excellence and no soul,” Osman said.